So, you’re in a bad mood. Something didn’t work out as planned, you didn’t get enough sleep or someone did something that really got on your nerves. Maybe you’re not even exactly sure why your mood is so low.
You feel like things have gotten on top of you and you’re tired and stressed out. You’ve been like a bear with a sore head all day, snapping at people close to you (which just makes you feel worse) and you just can’t seem to snap out of it.
It only takes one last little thing like dropping your toast butter side down on the carpet or your pen running out while writing your shopping list to tip you over the edge. You ask yourself, “Can’t anything go right in my life?”
You think filling your face with your favourite candy bar and pouring a big glass of wine (or two) will make you feel better, but once the sugar rush is over and the hangover kicks in, you’re just back where you started, except now you’ve got a headache too!
When you find yourself stuck in a foul mood or feeling low, don’t just let the blues get to you. Be pro active. There are things you can do to feel better.
Wiki’s Mood definition says, “In psychology, a mood is an affective state. In contrast to emotions or feelings, moods are less specific, less intense and less likely to be provoked or instantiated by a particular stimulus or event. Moods are typically described as having either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people usually talk about being in a good mood or a bad mood.”
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So, what exactly can you do to boost your mood? Some simple and effective ways you can improve your mood are:
- Get out in nature.
- Get out with friends.
- Put on your favorite playlist
- Get more light in your life.
- Look at old photos.
- Eat ‘boost your mood’ foods.
- Exercise your blues away.
- Try Yoga.
- Get enough sleep.
- Write it all down.
Keep on reading for more detail on these tips for boosting your mood that will have you feeling more upbeat in no time.
1. Get Out in Nature
When we are feeling down getting out of the house and embracing the outdoors may be just what you need to turn that frown upside down.
I personally can’t think of many things more calming than being away from the hustle and bustle and busy roads and enjoying the peace and quiet. Or maybe just listening to the birds chirping in the trees or listening to the river trickling past as you stroll along.
Being out in nature feels good for a reason, it can actually change how our bodies deal with stress. One study in Japan on a group of women aged between 40 and 73 revealed that forest therapy (also known as forest bathing) lowered the participants heart rate, lowered their cortisol levels (the hormone linked to stress) increased relaxation, and lowered tension and anxiety. Now, all that has got to be worth a wander in the woods, right?
The Forest Therapy Institute says:
“Forest Bathing is a health promoting, salutogenic, nature connection practice that aims to enhance well-being, relieve stress, and encourage relaxation.
It is underpinned by mindfulness principles, encouraging: the opening of the senses to the forest atmosphere; slowly walking through the forest; inhaling the forest air; and fostering an emotional connection to the landscape.”
Another study revealed a decrease in both cortisol levels and the heart-rate of the participants that spent time in the forest compared to those that spent time in the city.
Also, a third study showed that just a view of a forest through a window had a dramatic effect on office workers when it came to how productive they were at work and their job satisfaction. They were less stressed, less frustrated, and reported fewer illnesses. It also states that university students are “better able to think with green scenery.”
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go running off to their nearest densely wooded area to feel all the benefits. It has been proven that local parks and green spaces in urban areas also have a beneficial effect.
Even if you aren’t able to get out of the house, listening to audios of nature sounds and looking at images of nature have been shown to reduce feelings of anger, fear and stress too.
So, whether it’s going for a stroll in the woods or just looking at an image while listening to birdsong in your headphones, this should really help to lessen the stress and improve your mood.
2. Get Out With Friends
Meeting up with friends or maybe just your best friend can be just the thing you need to cheer you up. When we’re stressed or feeling down, a good friend can be an ear to listen to your woes and are usually the right people to show you that things aren’t so bad and maybe even have a giggle about whatever is bothering you. It’s like therapy, but free!
A good old hug from your bestie can really helpful too. Just hugging them makes your body release the feel good chemical oxytocin (also known as the trust hormone or the happy hormone) and decreases the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which will certainly make you feel better.
They say for the best results you should hug for at least a good six seconds. Make sure you know your audience before doing this one though, they may not be the touchy-feely kind, and you may find them suddenly being unusually ‘busy’ when you call them.
3. Put on Your Favourite Playlist (or create one)
Putting some of your favourite upbeat tunes on is great for boosting your mood.
We’ve all been there. A song comes on the radio, maybe a summer tune from years ago, it takes you back to that long, scorching summer in your teens.
You and your friends were at the beach, you looked amazing in your shorts, the smell of coconut sunscreen was in the air and you didn’t have a care in the world.
Then the song finishes, you open your eyes and realise you’ve got a toddler hanging off your neck demanding juice, with a questionable smell in the air, and there’s a pile of ironing in the corner. What happened? You were at the beach 5 seconds ago?
My point is, that music can completely change your mood in an instant! All those things like your demanding toddler and your long list of household chores were also there five minutes ago, but that song felt like it lifted the stress you felt for those few minutes, didn’t it?
Studies have shown that music not only can affect your mood but can also change your perception of things too. Listening to upbeat music makes you feel happy and sad music can make you feel, well, sad.
In one study participants were asked to identify happy or sad faces while listening to happy or sad music. When listening to happy music they were much better at identifying the happy faces and the same with the sad music and the sad faces.
The surprising thing was, even when there was no smiley shown at all, the participants still thought they recognized a happy face when listening to happy music and a sad one when listening to the sad music.
They were seeing things that weren’t there simply because of the influence of the music they were listening to.
If you’ve got an upbeat playlist with your favourite songs on, put it to good use. Crank it up, sing along, dance around. You’ll feel so much better for it.
4. Get More Light in Your Life
Making sure you are getting enough natural light every day is an excellent way of keeping your mood in check. How much light we are exposed to is not only linked to our mood but our energy levels and sleep quality too.
Natural light affects our circadian rhythm, which is basically our body clock. When it’s light, our body knows it’s time to wake up and when it’s dark, it’s time for rest and sleep.
When we are exposed to sunlight, our bodies release more serotonin (the “happy hormone”) which improves energy levels and your mood.
If you can’t get out in the sunlight every day, it might be an idea to take a vitamin D supplement to still get some benefits that you would have got from the sunshine.
Depending on where you are in the world, at different times of the year the hours of daylight will differ during your day. Some people use light therapy lamps (also known as light boxes) to help keep their circadian rhythms in a constant cycle. These lamps can help with certain mood disorders such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The NHS website says:
“The light produced by the light box simulates the sunlight that’s missing during the darker winter months.
It’s thought the light may improve SAD by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood).”
Even if you can’t get out in the daylight, or there isn’t much daylight where you are, you can use a light box to help avoid those unwanted mood swings.
They also advise you to choose a medically approved lamp from a fully certified manufacturer. So, make sure you do your homework before getting one for the best results.
5. Look at Old Photos
Getting out some old photo albums from yesteryear might just be that boost you are looking for. Sadly, these days photo albums end up in a box in the loft gathering dust or we tend to keep our photos on our phones but rarely look at them.
A study conducted by the Open University in the UK found that activities that we would normally associate with a mood boost like eating chocolate and watching TV gave a small 1% improvement in mood, whereas looking at photographs improved people’s moods by 11%.
Digging out the old family albums when you were that little kid wearing the latest fashion faux pas your parents inflicted on you or having a good laugh at how your mum’s curly perm almost couldn’t fit through the door (I was a child of the 80s, back then hair was BIG) can really make you feel better.
6. Eat Foods to Boost Mood
You may not realize it, but what you eat can have a dramatic effect on your mood. Eating mood-boosting foods is a great natural way of improving your state of mind.
Eating regularly is important, it helps to control your blood sugar levels. If those levels drop, it can leave you feeling tired and irritable. Which, let’s face it, ain’t no fun for anyone. Eating every 3–4 hours can help minimize those spikes and crashes in your blood sugar.
It’s also important to be eating the right kind of food. Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can be very beneficial for your mood. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to not only influence your mood but your personality and behavior too.
A study of 106 volunteers conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the participants that had lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood were more likely to suffer from mild or moderate symptoms of depression and see things more negatively. While the participants with higher levels of omega-3 were much less affected by symptoms, if at all.
You can get more omega-3 in your diet by eating oily fish like salmon, or if you’re not the biggest fan of fish, you can get omega-3 as a supplement.
Other mood booster foods include:
- Whole-grain foods
- Beans and Peas
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi
- Probiotic yogurts
We all know we should probably eat more fruit and veg for our physical health, but it is often overlooked just how much they can help our mental health too. Try to add a few of the above foods to your meals during the week. It’s amazing how much improving your diet can also improve your mood.
7. Exercise those blues away
It doesn’t really matter what you do for exercise, or if it is high or low intensity. It’s all good for helping to boost our mood.
If you are trying to improve your mood by doing exercise, it’s pretty important that you choose something that you will enjoy doing. Doing exercises that aren’t fun for you will just end up having the complete opposite effect than the one you’re after. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s unlikely that it will improve your mood at all.
You could try getting your heart rate up by jogging or swimming. Or try something like Pilates or yoga.
Regular exercise can reduce anxiety and stress, and I haven’t met a person yet that couldn’t do with less of both in their lives. It doesn’t have to be crazy intense exercise to be beneficial. Just going for a brisk walk will get that heart rate up and boost your levels of serotonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate your mood.
Exercise is also known to reduce the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and boost the production of endorphins, a chemical that both acts as a natural painkiller and mood booster.
So, if even just a small amount of exercise can lower our stress hormones, increase our “happiness” hormones, and boost our mood-enhancing chemicals it’s got to be hard to find a reason not to get up and get moving.
8. Try Yoga
Yoga is a great exercise to get into a habit of doing for a number of reasons. It’s great for improving our strength, balance, and flexibility, but it has also been proven to help improve our mood.
A study by Boston University School of Medicine found that yoga can have a “greater positive effect on a person’s mood and anxiety level than walking and other forms of exercise”.
They think this may be because of the elevated levels of GABA in the brain. GABA (short for Gamma-aminobutyric acid if you wanna get all technical) is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in our central nervous system, it limits or blocks certain brain signals which can prevent nervous activity and has a calming effect which would be incredibly beneficial when it comes to anxiety and stress.
If you feel you need to improve your mood, you may want to get yourself a nice comfortable yoga mat, allow yourself half an hour away from it all and fit in a calming yoga session. If it improves both your physical and mental health, you owe it to yourself to find the time.
A lack of sleep can have such a negative effect on our mood.
If you were up half the night playing musical beds with the kids or had a disturbed night because of your partners snoring and you didn’t catch as many Z’s as you need, you may find yourself asking “Is it just me or is EVERYONE and EVERYTHING really annoying today?”
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s probably is you! (ducks under desk)
When you’re tired, it can feel like the entire world is out to get you and the littlest of things can start your bottom lip trembling.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that when participants only slept 4.5 hours a night for a week, they found they were more mentally exhausted, stressed, angry, and sad, which I know a lot of us can relate to.
You’ll be happy to hear, though, that once the participants went back to having an adequate amount of sleep each night they reported a significant improvement in their overall mood.
So, there is hope for those of us that are having disturbed nights with the little ones or having to crawl to the sofa in the middle of the night to avoid the snore-a-saurus we share a bed with.
To make sure you’re getting enough sleep, put the other half on the night shift or ask them to sleep in the spare room for a night or two to give you a chance to recharge. By getting more sleep you’ll feel much less irritable, which will no doubt improve relationships. You never know, you may switch from just being in a mood to being in the mood for love again if you’re getting the right amount of sleep.
Just make sure you are catching up on those Z’s at some point, they’re important.
10. Write about it
If your mood is getting you down, write about it in a journal. Just writing down your thoughts and how you are feeling, getting it all out of your head and down on paper can really help. Don’t hold back, let it all out!
The University of Rochester medical center health encyclopedia states:
“One of the ways to deal with any overwhelming emotion is to find a healthy way to express yourself. This makes a journal a helpful tool in managing your mental health.
Journaling can help you:
- Manage anxiety
- Reduce stress
- Cope with depression
Journaling helps control your symptoms and improve your mood by:
- Helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns
- Tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them
- Providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors
When you have a problem and you’re stressed, keeping a journal can help you identify what’s causing that stress or anxiety. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can work on a plan to resolve the problems and reduce your stress.”
Describing your mood and seeing it in black and white can help you not only feel you’ve offloaded a little but can also help you see what affected your mood in the first place and may help you sidestep the same issues next time.
It can also give you a chance to have a chuckle at yourself. Of course, if something is serious treat it seriously, but if you were triggered by your partner leaving their underpants on the floor for the third time this week and it resulted in a full-blown hissy fit that ruined your entire day, it could be that you overreacted a bit maybe?
It’s also important to keep in mind that keeping a journal shouldn’t be all doom and gloom and how bad everything is. They are also great for writing down and making a record of positive things that have happened and when you’ve had an awesome day.
It’s hugely important to also recognize when you’ve achieved something and felt great.
The next time you notice yourself feeling down or something has put you in a less than perfect mood, try not to get too caught up in the negativity. Stop for a minute and get yourself in the right frame of mind, think about the things you can do to help yourself.
There’s a quote I love that goes “So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great!”
It should remind us that whatever we’re going through, it will pass just like it has before. We’ve all got a 100% success rate until now, right?
You may be having a bad day, but you’re still awesome. Just remember that.
- Physiological and Psychological Effects of a Forest Therapy Program on Middle-Aged Females
- Forest Therapy Institute: What is forest bathing and forest therapy
- Study: Combined Effect of Walking and Forest Environment on Salivary Cortisol Concentration
- Study: Influences of Viewing Nature Through Windows
- Study: Music changes perception, research shows
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Study: Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and the Risk of Depression: A Meta-Analysis
- Thalamic Gamma Aminobutyric Acid Level Changes in Major Depressive Disorder After a 12-Week Iyengar Yoga and Coherent Breathing Intervention
- Study: Sleep and Mood
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids Influence Mood, Impulsivity And Personality